Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Following this Blog

I've added the Following gadget to the upper left side of the page to make it easier to follow this blog. By clicking on the Follow button you can add this blog to your Google Friend Connect reader list and see if it has been updated recently. If you have a Blogger account this also works with that account. This allows you to go to 1 site to check all the blogs you're following for updates instead of checking each one individually. I hope this is helpful.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grassinator/DIY Grassmaster

At left is a photo of the new Grassinator just finished today. What is a Grassinator? A DIY version of the Noch Gras-Master that statically charges flocking so that it stands up when glued to the scenery base. The Gras-Master retails for $199. This version required about $45 in materials. Much appreciation goes to the Ztrains folks for the idea and to Jeff Schumaker for his execution and refinement of this idea. Jeff also supplied the ionizer used. The Ztrains web page describing how to build this neat tool is: Jeff gave a clinic on building this at the 2009 Midwest Narrow Gauge meet.
The hole on the side is to access the power switch. The ionizer used had a power switch built in so rather than bypass it, I mounted the board with the switch behind the hole. This one also runs on a 9 volt battery since the ionizer did. This made it cheaper because no jack and power supply were required. I used a butter tub for the grass basket instead of a Tupperware container. The screen was expoxied inside the lid. Hopefully this will hold up to repeated flexing of the lid when loading the static grass. If not the butter tube will be replaced by a Tupperware container. Time will tell.

I hope to apply a test patch of flock tomorrow.

Friday, November 20, 2009

China Module Progress

Here's a shot of one of 2 transition modules that allow the main line on the China module (12" from back drop) to connect to other modules that meet the HOn30 module standard of a main line 6-7/8" from the back drop. The Heki grass mat is coming off and needs to be reglued. The good 3M spray adhesive will be used this time.

Here's the scratch-built China station model that will go on the module. Campbell shingles, Grandt windows and Evergreen styrene clapboard siding was used. Next up to add the Steven's Creek cast metal chimney, paint the roof and build the platform.

The China module at left still has grey Celluclay on the road and next to the team track. Next steps are to paint and texture the road and unloading area next to the team track.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Future HOn30 Product from Mount Blue Model Company

The image here is a HO scale version of Mount Blue's SR&RL O scale box car kit, kit # 17.
This kit is for future release so you won't yet find it on their website:

This will likely be a semi-kit without details. This way it will be less expensive and the builder can add details to their liking. Please e-mail Mount Blue to express interest in this future kit at

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I kitbashed this from an MDC old-time reefer, shortening the ends and sides and narrowing the ends. I scratch-built the floor/frame and roof and added Grandt ladders and HOn30 trucks.

The decals are from Highball Graphics (

I know it's not prototypical, but it was fun.

Old Photos

Here's an old picture of a Chivers Forney that I built, but is now disassembled because I added electrical pick up to the trailing truck, but it never worked properly.
The chassis was the Bachmann docksider with a flywheel added. It ran fairly well until I "improved" it.

Here's the same body ready to be added to a Kato 2-6-4 chassis that has been modified to a 0-4-4. The trailing truck already had electrical pick up. This picture is also an old one.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kiso Baldwin Conversion

These pictures show a conversion of a Baldwin Kiso to a configuration that more closely resembles a Maine narrow gauge locomotive. This link will take you to images of the prototype:

This loco was used in Japan for logging but was built by the Baldwin locomotive works, the same company that built many of the Maine 2 foot engines. This means that many of the features already match Maine narrow gauge prototypes.

I changed these features:

1. Tailing truck from 2 wheels to 4.

Removing the existing trailing truck requires removing a screw. I then fashioned a new arm to fit a Micro Trains N scale archbar truck and attached with the screw for the existing trailing truck.

2. Large balloon stack.

The existing balloon stack is a large one by US standards. It does resemble the size of the stack on the SW Sargeant as delivered to the Franlinn & Megantic (See Moody page 69). I wanted to swap it for a straight
stack but drop in weight negatively affected the performance. To see what I mean just twist the existing stack while gently lifting up and it will come off. Then run the locomotive. So as a compromise I replaced it with a smaller white metal balloon stack from the Chivers Forney kit. It seems to run as it did before with this stack.

3. Oil bunker to wood burning/coal burning

The original oil bunker reached to teh cab roof, much too high for a Maine narrow gauge engine. I cut the upper portion and filled the gap with a flat piece of brass. I soldered the filler from the oil bunker to it to simulate the water hatch.

I am considering the following modifications:

Power pick up on the trailing truck.
Running boards on each side of the boiler.
Bell on top of the sand dome.
Wooden or boiler tube pilot.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

2009 Midwest Narrow Gauge Show

Here are a few photos from the narrow gauge show in Greenford, OH.
The first two are photos of the HOn30 modular layout that was set up in the lobby. It depicts several locations on the Wiscasset Waterville & Farmington Railroad as they exsited in the early 20th century.

Click on the photos to see a larger version. The first photo shows the North Whitefield, Maine station, the Whitefield, Maine station along with Erskine's store and Ford's Mill

The third picture shows Pete's Winslow module. Winslow was the end of the Winslow branch and had a turntable, coal shed and engine house.

Sam's Windes Inlet module with lobster boat and wharf activity. The detail is excellent as always.

Sam's rail bus built from a Railway Recollection kit on his module.The buildings and back drop are not yet complete. See the links for Railway Rec's website. The railbus ran smoothly and Sam will add electrical pickup to the front truck.

No 3 in the last picture is Bill V's forney from an old Sango kit. It ran well and reliably on the modules.

Monday, March 30, 2009

17th Annual Midwest Narrow Gauge Show

Another Midwest Narrow Gauge Show has come and gone. I'll be posting some pictures here later.
The clinics were excellent, especially The Passenger Cars of the WW&F (Chris McChesney and Gary Kohler), Making the Grassinator (Jeff Schumaker), Seven Simple Structures (Sam Swanson) and HOn30/HOn2 Locomotive Mechanism Equalization and DCC (Chris McChesney).
The contest models were very well done and the competition was heated. The HOn30, Sn2, Sn3, and On30 modular layouts looked and operated well. (In the interest of full disclosure I am a member of the Great Lakes HOn30 Module Group so my assessment is partial!)
Dennis V had a very interesting and impressive micro layout with hand-built switches. The camaraderie was excellent as always.

Barry McClellan, the proprietor of Railway Recollections, gave me some tips on finishing his Forney kit. The trailing truck was lifting the cab deck so that it was not level. His tips were:

File the rear buffer beam flush with the bottom of the cab floor. I'm using a Talgo trailing truck and the additional thickness was pushing up the floor.

Glue the boiler onto the cab. This made the cab assembly more level.

I decided to file a very little off the bottom of the tabs on the inside of the cab walls. These tabs rest on the housing for the slide mechanism of the trailing truck and I suspected that they were pushing down on the floor. Use caution here. It is better to preserve the good fit of the parts than to risk potential issues. (This is not a tip from Barry.)

I ran the loco on the Great Lakes HOn30 Module Group's 38 foot long layout and it ran several loops at a constant speed without stalling. The trailing truck does have electrical pick up and this helps. I'll post more pictures as I have them.

I also pick up a Railway Recollections Billerica & Bedford Box Car A kit. After reading the directions and looking over the pieces this kit will be fun and straight forward to build.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Barry at Railway Recollections has updated his web site with pictures of new Maine HOn30 box car, gondola and flat car kits. Click on the link at left to go there. If you model the early Sandy River or Billerica and Bedford these will fit your layout perfectly. The box car/baggage cars are unique and would add interest to any model railroad. I have several of Barry's kits and they are nicely detailed and easy to build.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

DCC Options

Here are some decoders that could work for HOn30 locomotives because they are small enough. As you'll see 3 decoders from 3 different manufacturers can fit into a typical HOn30 locomotive. The locomotive shell in all these pictures is a Chivers Forney. The picture are right shows that a Digitrax DZ143 decoder will fit inside the shell though it might preclude the use of a flywheel.
Here's the DZ143 inside the shell.

Below is a Lenz Gold Mini W decoder. Lenz offers an additional power module that would keep the loco moving over dirty track but it's too large for an HOn30 Forney.

Lastly we're showing a Train Control Systems M-1 decoder. Their website is While I have not operated any of their decoders they look promising.

Added on Feb 2 :
TCS ( has just released a new Z scale decoder (catalog number Z2) that is rated for use with N scale mechanisms. This is the smallest decoder I have seen yet. But may I just need to get out more. :)

This one might be useful for those really tight spaces.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another view of the transition module with Linekin Bay in the background. The boards over Linekin Bay are for storage of another module.

Lightweight Module Construction

Here are some photos of a transition module that I have built to transition from the standard 6-7/8" setback from the back drop to a 12" setback. This will be the standard for modules for my home layout. The transition modules will allow the layout modules to conform to the HOn30 standard and be used at meets with the Great Lakes HOn30 Module Group (GLHOn30MG). The 12" setback arose as I found that many of the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway station were located on the west side of the tracks and since the defacto GLHOn30MG standard has been right is north the station must sit behind the main line. Because the WW&F ran through rural areas this often leaves a field in the front 2/3 to half of the module. Moving the main line 5 inches forward provides more room for detail such as vehicles, figures etc around the station. My plans for Monson Village and Strong also work better with a 12" set back.
The construction was inspired by Sam Swanson's Windes Inlet module, built mailing from foam core. He has detailed the construction techniques in the latest issue of Light Iron Digest. Construction was done from memory so read the article to learn best practices.

Materials include 1 20" x 30" sheet of 1/2" thick foam core, 6" x 48" x 1/4" poplar, 2' x 2' x 7/8" bead board, aliphatic resin (carpenter's yellow wood glue) or Gorilla Glue.

  • Cut 2 pieces of foam core 6" x 24" for the front and the back with a sharp utility knife and a framing square, making cuts with 3 or 4 passes . Try to make the cut edges as square as possible so that the pieces mate well for gluing and the frame will be easier to keep square. Cut 1/2 of the foam and paper surface from the end of each front and back piece to from a "rabbet" of sorts, leaving the paper on one side intact. The poplar ends will be glued into this rabbet.
  • Next cut 2 pieces of foam core 23" x 4" for the center bead board support.
  • Cut 4 pieces of foam core 4.5" x 6" for corner blocks.
  • Cut 2 small strips of foam core at least 12" long as supports for the top surface.
  • Cut 4 square pieces of foam core about 4" x 4" as supports for the center bead board support.
  • Cut the poplar into 2 24" long pieces for the ends.
  • I waited to cut the bead board until I could them them to fit the less-than-square frame.
  • Draw a line on the inside of the front and back foam core panels parallel and 7/8" away from the top edge to mark the space that the bead board will fill. All supports must stay below this line.Draw the same lines on the poplar ends.
  • Glue the 4.5" x 6" corner blocks to the ends of the front and back foam cores panels keeping them below the 7/8" line.
  • Glue the 2 23" x 4" center support pieces into a "T" beam.
  • After the front and back panel assembly have dried glue each to a poplar end using a framing square to keep them square.
  • After the glue has dried, glue the two end/side assemblies together to form the complete frame (looks like a box).
  • After the glue has cured, glue the center foam support in the middle of the frame running from front to back and below the 7/8" line but flush with it.
  • Glue the long foam core strips on the inside of each poplar end, below and flush with the 7/8" line.
  • After the glue has dried place the bead board into one corner of the top of the frame, mark it to fit inside the frame and cut it. Dry fit it and trim if needed. The bead board should fit into the frame so that the surface is flush with the top edges of the frame.
  • Glue the bead board into the frame using Liquid Nails for Foam Board or latex adhesive caulk. I used the caulk because I've used it before to glue down Woodland Scenics foam track bed.
Now the module is ready for track wiring and scenery. My module weight about 3.5 pounds without track, wiring and scenery.